What to expect when you need something translated
The following tips apply not only to freelance translators
and translation firms, but in many cases to your organizationís
own in-house translators. Before approaching a translator, have
the following information on hand.
- Define the subject of the document. Committee
minutes, a newsletter article, a guide for an exhibition, a
maintenance manual? The fields of specialization is a good
source of subject areas.
- Specify the languages the document is to be
translated from and into. Most translators work from one
or more languages but only into their mother tongue.
- Determine the length of the document. You should
at least be able to say how many pages it is. If you have
the document on disk, most word-processing programs can
count the words for you. This is the most accurate way of
measuring the "length" of a document.
- Find out whether it is an update of something that
has already been translated. If so, you could save
yourself some money--it may not be necessary to translate
the whole document, but only the parts that have changed.
- Locate any background information on the subject
. This could include a glossary put out by your company or
organization, similar publications, or the books or articles
used as references by the author of the document .
- Provide the name and number of a resource person.
The translator may have questions for the author or someone
else familiar with the document.
- Set a deadline for delivery. Remember that in
many cases, the translator's rate will reflect the urgency
of the request. If you call in a plumber for overnight or
weekend work, you'll pay extra--the same applies for a
Questions to ask the translator
It is always preferable to ask questions before the work
begins and thereby establish a good working relationship.
- What is the translatorís experience in this field
(other customers, education and training, previous
non-translation work experience)?
- Will the translation be billed by the word or by
the hour, and what is the rate, in either case?
- Can the translator provide a written estimate
before beginning the work?
- Is proofreading included in the price? What is
the procedure if there are last-minute changes or changes
after the work is delivered?
- Does the translator have the same word-processing
software used by the customer?
Some final suggestions
- When you're dealing with a translator outside your
company, you may wish to sign a simple contract. There's no
harm in asking for something in writing. For long jobs, you
may wish to agree on partial deliveries (and partial
payments) along the way.
- It never hurts to have someone in your company or unit
look over the finished translation. You may have your own
in-house jargon or turns of phrase, which the translator has
no way of knowing.
- Be sure to allow enough time for your translation. A
translator's output will rise or fall substantially
depending on the difficulty of the text and the translator's
experience in the field. Give as much notice as possible of
an upcoming job so you can be slotted into the translator's
- Finally, translators are not word-processing experts or
graphic artists. Don't expect a ready-to-print document.
- If you are unhappy with the final product, talk to the translator first. If you would
like a different style, say so and explain what you are
looking for. Remember that different languages have
different ways of expressing the same things!
- If you are happy with the final product (and we hope you
will be), why not call and say so! Build a working
relationship with one or more translators, and they'll
become familiar with your preferences, style and
terminology. You'll all benefit.